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Blogged Out: Publisher Risk, Talk Shows, MMO Terrors

Blogged Out: Publisher Risk, Talk Shows, MMO Terrors

July 8, 2005 | By Jim Rossignol

'Blogged Out' looks at the world of game professionals' weblogs, and this week’s column includes discussions of publisher risk aversion, John Davison’s encounter with bad television, and developer reactions to the GLS conference.

- Taking its cue from CNN Money’s discussion of the slump in Hollywood takings and what that could mean for gaming, the blogosphere has been filled with familiar mutterings about publisher portfolios and their aversion to risky projects. The IGDA's Jason Della Rocca suggests that we all read up on Modern Portfolio Theory for a better grasp of how diversification of investment might moderate investors’ fears and the damage risk aversion can cause to growth. Continuing the train of thought, Activision's Jamie Fristrom suggests that the real problem with risk-averse publishers is the near-breakout titles (he cites Treyarch’s cancelled Dead Rush) that will so often be canned before completion. How many games, he asks, could have been great, even if they weren’t to be the next The Sims?

- Perhaps the most notable piece of game blogging this week, which was picked up and discussed by a number of developers, was by's editorial director John Davison, who wrote about his troubling experiences at the hands of an anti-gaming episode of ‘talk show’ The Big Idea. The show’s one-sided agenda in the discussion of game violence caused Davison to walk off set during the commercial break. Remarkably, another person who was ill represented by the show was Brooks Brown, one of the survivors of the Columbine High School shootings. His opinion, that videogames are a good thing, has been published by 1UP. He finishes with a powerfully resonant opinion: "Columbine was not caused by violent videogames. Eric and Dylan (the shooters) were drawn to violent videogames because they were violent, f*cked up kids. I am drawn to these violent games because they offer more freedom. And, it may sound naive, but I believe the vast majority of gamers play these games for the same reason as me. Do you?"

- On a more positive note, there’s been a lot of blogging covering the Games, Learning and Society conference, including this breakdown on Terra Nova, and a further discussion of the psychological aspects of MMO play on Brian Green of Near Death Studios' blog. He points to Dmitri Williams’ analysis of the mental impact of gaming, which includes some pretty startling observations about how people’s perceptions change through prolonged exposure to certain media: “In [Asheron’s Call 2], Dmitri found that people were significantly more concerned about robbery with a weapon, in the offline world, than before they played the game. Pretty wacky, huh? And this was on the PvE [player vs. enemy] servers, not on the PvP [player vs. player] servers.”

- Finally, although it's a little older, it’s worth pointing to the weblog of Ready At Dawn Studios' Jon Jones, which recently had an illuminating post on ‘marketing for artists’. Art’s relationship with development has always been a difficult one, and it’s important that the talented career artists who will make an impact on the next generation of games don’t get lost along the way. Those who are starting out should definitely
heed his advice.

[Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK " his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few.]

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